Kevin Myers: Can it be that when the founding cells of life were formed, someone planned for a rainy day?
When Senator Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot, she was lucky that a Korean surgeon with a great deal of military combat experience was on duty in the local hospital.
He knew from operating on US servicemen in Iraq that the sooner one treats a gunshot wound to the brain, and stems the bleeding, the greater the chances of the patient surviving. "If I get them alive, there's a 95pc chance they're going to stay that way."
Medical techniques to head wounds used to be based on letting the brain recover from the trauma of the gunshot. Terrible experience in war has since taught doctors that the best response is to act immediately and to stem the bleeding, regardless of collateral damage to the brain: the brain will, as much as possible, then set about repairing itself. The manner in which the human brain will re-wire itself, and change the circuitry to match the wiring, to cope with injury has been one of the major medical discoveries of the past quarter century. The human brain has a simply staggering ability to repair damage, and to recover facilities lost through mechanical destruction.
A shooting in a shopping mall in Arizona is a reasonably long way from a desert in northern Madagascar, the subject of a BBC documentary by David Attenborough last week. This desert is a brutally unforgiving place, in which an ordinary spider would simply be desiccated, even in shelter. So one variety of spider has developed a technique by which it lassoes an empty snail-shell, and by a careful geometric arrangement of its web, is able to hoist the shell off the ground and suspend it from a branch in shade, safe from the heat and from ground predators, with the hole pointing vertically downwards, away from both the sun and intrusion by birds.
That little spider in Madagascar is also a long way from the communications revolution of the last couple of years, Facebook, though in five years' time the Facebook movie, 'The Social Network' will probably seem as obsolete as the 2-4-2 Enterprise steam-engine from Dublin to Belfast. No matter. I use the Facebook example as merely one example of the incredible built-in intellectual redundancy to the human brain, which has apparently been sitting in our craniums for 100,000 years, waiting for someone to discover a new and unexpected communications use for it.
But then, you could have said the same thing about the human brain throughout the entire history of discovery and exploration, from the circumnavigation of the world to the mapping of the universe.
Why did the human brain create such vast capacities, in advance? How did it know how to repair itself? How did it create an entire language region that knows how to both create and understand the impossible complexities of linguistic grammar -- universal to all peoples -- which other parts of the brain are able to emulate after cerebral injury to the language area?
And talking about redundant capacity: what magical circuitry did the spider possess that enabled it to create an entirely new home, involving complex suspensory trapezoids and a careful positioning of a crustacean shell, millions of years after it had emerged in entirely different ecological circumstances?
You can argue -- as the Natural Selectionists so dogmatically do -- that the newly successful spider resulted from genetic mutation and the trial-and-error of experience. But that belief may only be sustained by an ideological faith that random accidents can create design, and that failure does not mean inevitable death.
Yet the Madagascar spider could not have survived unless the snail-shell escape module had worked almost from the outset. Otherwise, it is a deathtrap. In other words, did it have -- like Gabrielle Giffords, or all those wonderminds toiling in Facebook -- purposeful redundancy of capacity that would enable its body to improvise a response to dramatically different environmental circumstances?
This miracle is before us, every day, in every kind of way: clear evidence -- though not, I accept, proof -- that nature is apparently teleologically inclined, which means that it has, from the outset, possessed purpose towards certain possible outcomes. To be sure, at one level, that outcome is survival: but on another level, it is also the means to survival.
Nature's 'intent' -- a rather humanoid word, I confess -- was not merely to enable the holder of these genes to meet and to overcome unexpected adversity, but also to provide the necessary wherewithal for it to do so.
So, we have the human brain that is the master of grammar, which it cannot possibly have developed over time, because "imperfect grammar" is like "imperfect navigation": it results in complete failure and probable death.
Similarly, a brain that either can rewire itself to cope with disaster, converting a non-grammatical part of it into a grammatical one, or another that can turn a snail-shell into an escape module, clearly have -- so to speak -- some spare capacity in mind.
Can it be that when the founding cells of life were formed, someone, or something, planned for a rainy day or two? Yet such is the dogmatic power of the secular religion of Natural Selection that even to ask such logical and obvious questions is to court ridicule, in this New & Liberal Age of Enlightenment.